February 2009 – Stay N Alive

Making Auto-Follow a Little Easier by Removing the DMs

SocialToo.com - Your Companion to the Social WebAs of today on my service SocialToo, we’re taking a stand and removing the ability to auto-dm your followers. This service, as it grew, was getting out of hand, very impersonable, and people were just ignoring them. It was a tough decision due to the number of users using the service, but I think making this decision is the right thing to do. In the end this makes the other services we provide, such as auto-follow, more productive. I’m trying to think of other less-spammy and more personal alternatives down the road, however.

To replace auto-DMs, we’re now blocking DMs from any service we’re able to that do provide the auto-DM service. In addition, I’ll be working on some new features in the near future to auto-unfollow users we detect auto-DM-like behavior from for you. Let’s end this robot-like practice once and for all. I’m taking the reigns on this one.

My Hiatus From RSS – Is RSS Really Necessary?

RSSRecently, I have become increasingly aware of my dependance on RSS for news and information. Like Louis Gray, I am a data sponge. I like new news, when it happens – I really think I should have majored in Journalism for that reason. Because of that dependance on the news, I have, over the years, subscribed to enough RSS to constitute thousands of news items in my feeds that I read daily. And yes, while some I skim, I go through each and every one of them.

At the same time I’m beginning to realize the amount of time it involves to stay so updated on the news. While I have become increasingly good at using my “J” and “K” keys in Google Reader, I find my dependance on the news constantly drawing me back to Google Reader, in almost an addictive manner throughout the day.

You see, going through my news I’ve come to realize recently that much of the news I get is simply entertainment. Much of it is repeated, and much of it, while very interesting, simply isn’t necessary to enhancing my business, SocialToo, improving my Consulting knowledge or improving me as a person in any way. I discussed this recently with my friend, Jeremiah Owyang, and he gave me some insight into how he gets his news.

Jeremiah is a Senior Analyst at Forrester, and perhaps one of their most vocal (if not the most vocal) employees, with one of the top blogs on the internet on Web strategy, Social Media, and Web 2.0-related topics. He knows his stuff, and is very up-to-date on what’s current and what’s happening in early-adopter, as well as Enterprise technologies. In discussing my dilemma with him, Jeremiah revealed to me that he doesn’t use RSS. He relies solely on FriendFeed Friend Lists, Google E-mail alerts, and what people tell him on Twitter. From that he hasn’t missed anything he needed to know, and has remained an expert in his related field of expertise. I was amazed that he was able to do this without RSS.

I decided to give this a try. In fact, I’m going to use a religious holiday as an excuse to try it. Yesterday at noon was the beginning of Lent (Ash Wednesday). Admittedly, I’m not Catholic (although I do run one of the largest organized groups of Catholics through my We’re Catholic App, at 70,000 users), but I love the concept of Lent. The holiday is based on the fast that Jesus Christ performed for 40 days and 40 nights, in which he was tempted despite his hunger and weakness, and came out triumphant. People around the world give up different items for those 40 days as a method of overcoming weakness and temptation.

For this Lent, I’m going to give up RSS and Google Reader. I’m going to be a weakling and only do it for 1 week, but my attempt is to figure out if I can be more efficient without it than with it. With the advent of Social Media and tools such as Twitter, FriendFeed, and even normal e-mail, I wonder if I can remove this addiction and still be as productive as I used to. Here is how I will do it:

  • The start – Yesterday at 12pm I closed my Google Reader tab. I haven’t yet re-opened it, and I won’t re-open it until next Wednesday at 12pm. I will declare RSS bankruptcy and delete all remaining RSS at that time.
  • Google/Twitter/FriendFeed Alerts – I’ve been doing most of these through RSS up until now. I am contemplating the best solution. One option would be to create a FriendFeed Room that imports all my searched terms into one place. Another would be to start sending Google searches to my e-mail, filling up my inbox – not sure I want to do that. I could also set up a TweetDeck or PeopleBrowsr column to search for the terms I need to track. I may do a combination of all of the above.
  • Getting the News I Want – If there was ever a better reason to be on FriendFeed, this is why you need to do it. Even if you don’t participate, make sure your blog is populating FriendFeed (I would add it to Facebook as well). This will be how I obtain my news. Now, instead of just tracking news, I’ll be tracking Twitter, Blogs, Youtube, and more through a Friends List on FriendFeed. If I was subscribed to your blog before and you’re on FriendFeed, I’m now tracking your blog via that method. I’ll be “media snacking”, as Robert Scoble calls it, and IMO, this is the future of news discovery, and takes much less time. Add me on FriendFeed if you want me to discover your content as well.
  • Twitter – If there’s anything you think I should read, @reply me on Twitter. I track things there as well, but that will guarantee I read it, and some times ReTweet it.
  • Sharing – One thing I love most about Google Reader is my ability to share items I come across, and even comment on them. This saves me a lot of the need to write a blog post about something someone has already covered. FriendFeed provides a nifty tool you can add as a Bookmarklet in your browser which will add any page you come across to FriendFeed. I’ll be using this religiously moving forward. You can follow my shares in FriendFeed, or on my FriendFeed widget over on the lower-right of this blog.

It’s my hope that I can learn something from this. Fasting, whether it be food or other material items, can teach you what’s most important in life. I did this with Twitter for a few months last year and learned a lot on what Twitter is, and isn’t important for. My hope is I can do the same with FriendFeed. Perhaps this Lent we should all, regardless of religion or faith, figure out something we want to learn about and give up those things we would at other times call a “need”. I think this world would be a much better place if we all did this every so often.

I will post a follow up to what I learned in a week.

I Want to Meet You

mediums2_300_144604_n543030955_526717_5433I want to meet you. I’m no TechCrunch, nor am I aspiring to be, but I really do enjoy meeting my readers in person. I’ll never forget the day I met Daniel Ha and Jason Yan at Disqus Headquarters with Robert Scoble and them mentioning that they were readers of my blog – I was blown away!. I think it’s really fun to meet my readers and discover why you think my content is so interesting.

There are several events coming up that I wanted to make you aware of. Some more personal than others. I really wish they were in more diverse places – if you or your organization are interested in having me speak please don’t hesitate to ask! Here is what I have planned thus far:

Today, February 16 – Interview with Krishna De on BlogTalk Radio. You can tune in and listen to her interview me about SocialToo, Facebook, and whatever else comes up. You can call in on the show’s number at +1 347 633 9467 or listen live on the web at 11am MST.

Omniture Summit – While I won’t be speaking (maybe next year?), I’m looking forward to attendance at Omniture’s annual Summit this week. It starts Tuesday and ends Thursday. Look for me and say hi if you’re visiting!

Social Media Club, Salt Lake City Panel – I’ll be on a panel this Thursday, February 19 with Rachael Herrscher of TodaysMama, Sara Brueck Nichols of Operation Kids, and Anthony Power of Recipe31. The basic topic is, you guessed it, Social Media.

Bebo B.E.S.T. Contest Awards Night – While I won’t be there in person, I had the privilege of judging the Bebo B.E.S.T. developers contest with Dave McClure and Frank Gruber, in which the winners will be announced this Wednesday, February 18, in a special awards ceremony in San Francisco. I’m looking forward to seeing the winners.

Nevada Interactive Media Summit 2009 Keynote – This is a highlight for me which I’m really looking forward to. On Saturday, March 7, I’ll be flying out to Reno, NV to keynote at the Nevada Interactive Media Summit. I’m excited to meet everyone attending at the summit, some very new to Social Media and looking to find ways to better integrate Social Media into their organizations. I’m looking forward to sharing some inspirational successes and failures in the realm of Social Media and how the organizations attending can improve their use of Social Media through Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, and more. Come say hi to me!

PhotoCamp, Utah – Saturday, March 14 I’ll be presenting at PhotoCamp, Utah, where I agreed to speak about promoting photography through Social Media. I’ve always said if I were a photographer I’d get on Facebook and start tagging those in the photos I took. There are other techniques that I think would improve any Photography business that I will share.

Dr. Larry McFarland’s PR Class at Brigham Young University – On Thursday, March 19 I’ll be guest presenting for a PR class at Brigham Young University, speaking to Dr. McFarland’s first year PR students about Social Media. I’m sure what I share will be very different from what they’re used to hearing, but very valuable!

Utah Medical Marketing Association – On Wednesday, March 25, I’ll be speaking with Josh Carr, of Sprout Marketing, on Social Media, targeting the BioMedical fields. This will be an interesting topic, and I may need to do my research to hit the right audience considering my medical background is limited, but I’m really looking forward to it. Social Media is Social Media, regardless! This is a very interesting area, and maybe I’ll try to pull in some of my learnings from UnitedHealth Group when I speak.

As you can see, I have an extremely busy schedule ahead of me in the next month. I’m really looking forward to it, and if I can schedule you or your business in for a quick hour or two (or 4) of consulting I would love to see what I can do to help! My consulting sessions are jam-packed, and well worth the time. E-mail me if you’d like to meet some time, or please, just stop by and say hi next time you see me!

Is Facebook Testing Popups?

Today I was visiting a friend’s Facebook Group, when out of nowhere a popup appeared, asking me to take a survey. Being on a Mac, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t spyware or a virus. I checked the other sites I was on and none seemed to be the type to do this, and Facebook was the last site I had any activity on. The ad popped up right as I entered the particular Facebook group. I’ve contacted Facebook and am awaiting clarification on this. Is Facebook testing popups amongst its users? Could this be from one of their ad partners? Has anyone else seen this? Here’s the ad:
Facebook Popups

One More Thing…

In addition to the Twitter Bowl results today, we also launched the ability to comment on SocialToo SocialSurveys over on the SocialToo blog today. Similar to the way TwitPic comments work, this means your followers can now comment on each of your SocialToo SocialSurveys right on the survey itself, and have their response go out to their Twitter followers as well, guaranteeing even more exposure for your SocialSurveys. This is just one of many updates we’ll be rolling out over the coming weeks. Try it out and let me know what you think!

Announcing the Twitter Bowl 2009 Results

Twitter Bowl 2009Today Brian Solis announced the results of the promotion my company, SocialToo did with him, Jeremiah Owyang, Louis Gray, Chris Heuer, and Guy Kawasaki. The promotion was to encourage everyone to prepend their Tweets about the Superbowl ads with #superbowlads, and then vote for their favorite ad on a SocialToo SocialSurvey at the end of the Super Bowl. The results were interesting:

  • There were a total of 1,534 Tweets during the Superbowl mentioning #superbowlads
  • 563 people voted on the survey
  • 3,151 visited the survey page (showing SocialToo SocialSurveys don’t just cover Twitter)
  • 111 of those visits came from Facebook, 616 directly from Twitter
  • The top ads were 1. Transformers, 2. Hulu, 3. Career Builder, 4. Pepsi Max, “I’m Good”, 5. Doritos, “Free Doritos”
  • These stats are vastly different from other nation-wide polls, showing that the Social Media audience is its own niche, with different ideas and opinions

In addition, midway through the Superbowl we asked viewers to share their thoughts on the overall ad experience. The results were consistent with other findings, showing that most viewers only viewed the ads as par or less from past SuperBowls.

Thanks to Brian Solis for leading all this and putting it together and Jeremiah Owyang for the idea.  Brian put a lot of work into organizing all this – you can read more of his findings and results, along with a much more in-depth analysis over on his blog.

8 Late Predictions That Will Change the Web in 2009

I’ve been intending to write this all month, and until now have had to put it off due to a really busy month on SocialToo. I’ve been tracking multiple web startups this last year, and many news stories around technology. In January and end of December you may have seen the predictions of blog after blog for what they predicted will happen in the year 2009. I missed this opportunity last year, so this year, I noted mine on Twitter, favorited them so I could reference back to them, and will list those here for you to reference next year and see if I was right. Here are 8 predictions that will change the tech space in 2009:

1. SixApart and Automattic will enter the microblogging space (Original Twitter prediction) – Twitter has a monopoly right now in the microblogging space. Even though there are serious contenders like Friendfeed, it’s hard not to leave such a large network of connected people all communicating with each other, so competing with such is a hard task to accomplish. Like it or not, Twitter is still a micro-blogging platform, emphasis on “blogging”. It’s a way to express thoughts and news quickly, in short space, in a very social way. SixApart and Automattic, the two competing blog platforms that make such software as WordPress (that this blog is hosted on) and MovableType, know Twitter hits their audience and fills a void their platforms don’t fill at the moment. They will pose as serious competition by bringing the space of micro-blogging back onto the user’s blogs themselves. We’re already seeing them start this effort with SixApart’s Motion software, and Automattic’s BuddyPress. David Recordon at SixApart is already actively involved in pushing standardization in lifestreaming with Chris Messina and others, an effort Twitter is oddly absent from. Oh, and let’s not forget SixApart’s acquisition of Pownce, solely for their developers! At the same time, I asked Matt Mullenweg, CEO of Auttomatic what their competition to Motion was, and he responded BuddyPress was the answer.

2. Facebook will overtake Craigslist and/or Ebay in online classified sales, or become a very strong competitor (Original Twitter Prediction) – What??? It’s true, Facebook doesn’t even have a classifieds site right now, for the most part. They’ve taken most of it down, and what’s left is rarely used. However, Facebook has announced plans to integrate with existing online marketplace provider, Oodle to integrate their own social offerings and network with the existing Oodle marketplace. I still think there is a huge social marketplace that has not yet been tapped, and of all companies, I think Facebook is the one that gets this, and they’re trying to get it right. I truly believe this year is the year they’ll get it right, and they’ll do such with a combination of developer platform options, micro-payment options, and even more social ways to spread what you’re selling by word of mouth. However, with the tremendous size of Ebay and Craigslist, Facebook has a very steep hill to climb – we’ll see if they’re able to do it this year or next.

3. Robert Scoble and FastCompany will do something truly innovative with all the “likes” he has been sharing on FriendFeed (Original Twitter prediction) – While Gabe Rivera has done a tremendous job responding, Scoble has made no secret his frustrations and love/hate relationship with the service, TechMeme</a. And, as the most followed individual on FriendFeed, he has a unique position to present the news from that which he finds in his huge list of friends, in a social, living manner that others cannot. While, knowing Scoble, I know he does this because he truly enjoys new information, smart people, and innovating startups, I can’t help but wonder if some of his activity is in planning for something he is also doing with his employer, FastCompany. We’ll find out in the next 11 months I guess.

4. Facebook will launch a serious developer platform, solely for mobile phone developers (Original Twitter prediction) – I predicted this middle of last year, and Facebook has confirmed this, sort of, as Ben Ling announced at F8 last year that they would be releasing libraries for Facebook Connect on top of the iPhone at some point. I asked again in the following Press briefing, and he confirmed it there as well. I think Facebook has tremendous potential on the iPhone. While technically it is possible to integrate Facebook Connect and the Facebook platform into any environment with an internet connection, Facebook has not put their focus in this area for developers yet, nor have they made it easy. However, once they do expect an even larger boom for Facebook as they launch to the 3 billion world-wide cell phone subscriber base out there. Imagine not only friend and status information being shared, but geo-location, on-the-spot photos and videos, and more. I think this is the year for that to happen for Facebook.

5. People will grow tired of traditional social media services and move, possibly en masse, to bigger, and better solutions (Original Twitter prediction) – Microsoft has yet to seriously contend in the social media space. Google keeps trying and failing (or so we perceive). Yahoo has yet to be successful. However, each of these have massive chat platforms all with friends lists and networks that, with a little tweaking could be modified to work, just like Twitter, or possibly even Facebook or similar. Microsoft has shown interest in this by having a representative at Steve Gillmor‘s Bearhug camp last year. Each of these platforms dwarfs Twitter in size. I think there is a very strong possibility Twitter will either be acquired by one of these, or the big 3 will start competing in Twitter’s space and we’ll see serious competition out there. I think this is just one example of ways this can happen in the Social Media space we know today.

6. RSS will lose its anonymity (Original Twitter prediction) – one of the strong points of RSS is that anyone can subscribe, and no one has to know they subscribed to the content they want to read. However, in an increasingly “Social” world, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to remain anonymous. I think the days are numbered that RSS keeps its anonymity. With services like Feedburner beginning to fail, and services like Google FriendConnect and Facebook Connect taking shape, there is a serious possibility bloggers will soon be able to know each individual, personally, who subscribes to their blog. If you think I’m blowing smoke about this, just look over there on the right – see all those names and faces? I’m willing to bet each one of them subscribes to this blog.

7. FriendFeed will be acquired by a major news organization. (Original Twitter prediction) – FriendFeed, even more than Twitter, is a news source. It’s a way to gather and read more than just statuses, but blog posts, Google Reader shares, Facebook posts, and more, in one single location. News organizations worldwide are dying. It’s becoming too expensive to produce good content any more, especially as others are producing content for free via blogs and other mediums. For this reason, I think the successful News organizations will be Content enablers, not providers, and will be the ones providing the technology, and services for ordinary citizens to report the news where they are, at the time it’s happening. Of all available networks out there, I think FriendFeed does this best. Think I’m crazy? It already happened to FriendFeed’s competitor, SocialMedian, acquired by news organization, Xing. It happened to MySpace with News Corp. Smart news organizations will realize this and you’ll see many more acquisitions like those.

8. Content aggregation will move to blogs (Original Twitter prediction) – I covered this a little in number one. However, I think it’s worth re-emphasizing. People like to own their content. I think people are getting frustrated that they can’t aggregate, communicate with their networks, and more, through their own home base, being their blog. I think the smarter services will enable the ability to aggregate on users’ own blogs, and network with others’ blogs and content aggregation at the same time.

So there you have it – heard here first, 8 predictions that I think will change the web in 2009. In economically troubling times people are desperate – they work harder than ever to make things work, and I truly believe that much of the landscape as we know it will be different, come 2010.